Christ was separated from sinners, and yet he dwelt among them. Not only did he eat and drink with the hated tax collectors, the offensive prostitutes, the downright sinners, but he also had daily fellowship with the sinful disciples. He was patient with their hardheartedness, their arrogance, for three years while he walked by their side and taught them, moment by moment opening their eyes to the truth of himself. Occasionally they had glimpses of his majesty, but far more often they were ignorant of his glory and focused only on themselves and what they could gain. They wanted the bread without realizing it was offered to them from the hands of the Healer, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
And we are the same.
Does it surprise you that people are sinners? It shouldn't. God knows I am one. Followers of Christ are - I am - often just like the disciples: walking with Jesus but ignorant of his effect. Hardhearted instead of being formed and fashioned according to his will and Word. We need the Spirit to change us, to mold us and change us and challenge us toward Christlikeness, toward serving and living in this world, and shining as lights pointing to Christ and his glory.
You know the age-old phrase: be in the world but not of the world. Perhaps, as this article suggests, we would be better served to change our thinking. The reality is that we are not of the world. Of course. Christ has purchased us for another place, with him. But he has also prepared us for the journey, and the preparation is here, in the world. Amidst the darkness, and the light, the sorrow and the joy, the fleeting futility mixed with glimpses of eternity; this is where we live. It is where Christ has placed us. And he has equipped us to be here. What are we but his servants, "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession", and why? The answer is before us: "so that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light."
As Christ was separated, so has he separated his people. We are set apart for his purposes, with open eyes. No longer are we completely ignorant. Now we live in Christ, and we have the Holy Spirit, and he shows us the better way - love, forgiveness, reconciliation. He went to the cross and died, not for himself, but for the sake of us, for the sake of sinners, committed to death and slaves to sin, bound to the prince of the power of the air. He died so that we might be reconciled to God. He was separated from sinners, and yet "became sin who knew no sin" so that we who knew sin and knew it well could flee from it and be free in him. What grace!